Samyang’s 35mm f/1.4 lens costs around £1,000 less than comparable optics on the market. Tim Coleman finds out how its quality fares
I am pleased with the optical quality of the Samyang lens. Our resolution charts show it to be pin sharp, with minor softness at f/1.4 and f/22. Prime lenses are usually sharper than zoom optics, but the level of sharpness on display here is remarkable considering the price of the lens. Detail in the eyes and eyebrows of portraits is very well defined. Resolution detail is consistent along the entire aperture range, with a drop-off at f/22.
Image: An f/1.4 aperture is useful for dark interiors, such as in this cake shop
At f/1.4, image detail is slightly softer with less contrast, but I would expect a drop-off in image clarity at the widest aperture setting and this is still very good. Stopping down to anywhere between f/2.8 and f/11 shows the image quality at its most crisp.
As I would expect from a lens that opens up to f/1.4, vignetting is noticeably present at wider apertures. By f/2.8 it is less noticeable and by f/4 the vignetting is all but gone. Edge detail is almost as strong as in the centre of the frame, which is impressive.
Minor barrel distortion is evident in a controlled setting with a test subject, but it is nothing to worry about in real-world situations. Many lenses at this focal length show a similar level of distortion, and most of this can be controlled in-camera or through software with distortion correction.
Chromatic aberration is well controlled, thanks in part to the aspherical lens element. At the widest aperture I noticed fringing in edge detail, but stop down to around f/4 and it is much less apparent. This is yet another area of optical quality where the lens performs very well indeed.
As this is a relatively wide lens, out-of-focus areas are not as extreme as on a more telephoto optic, so having a widest setting of f/1.4 is very useful. However, the character of out-of-focus areas (bokeh) is still an important consideration for those using this lens for its wider apertures, and here the quality is very good.
We placed the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III body and shot our standard resolution test chart. The images are across the entire aperture range.